Monday, August 21, 2006

One Improbable Journey Ends and Others Begin

It was August, 2002, when we climbed our first 4000 footer. The hike up Mt. Tecumseh is one of the more moderate 4000 footer climbs and we had no ambitions that day beyond enjoying that climb. It was simply a natural progression that began when the kids were three and we hiked trails in Waterville Valley, to Sabbaday Falls, and to Smarts Brook. At four they hiked up to the first ledge on Mt. Welch and five they reach their first summits climbing the Sugarloafs. Patience was always the key as we tried to choose hikes that were interesting but within our children's limits. Of course with every hike and with every month that passed, those limits expanded and so did we.

It was not until the first hike of the summer of 2004 that our horizons really began to expand when we met our first "super hikers" on Mt. Pierce. Urged on by our son Jordan, hiking the 48 began to seem possible and we became fully committed to doing what it took to achieve this goal. The truth is that few of the hikes were easy and until the end, our limits were continuously stretched. For many of the hikes we developed our abilities "just in time" as our conditioning and skills continually improved. For those hikes, it seemed as though we could not have completed them any earlier than we did. Hiking these mountains involves preparation, commitment, training, and both physical and psychological conditioning.

In the process Jordan and Kate have become a bit of hiking celebrities with known and unknown hikers as they get ahead of us and interact with others on the trail. Their speed, endurance, and agility are far beyond the norm for their age; they have become among the youngest hikers to ever complete the 48.

We have met hikers who have been hiking these mountains for 60 years. Where Kate and Jordan will be as adults is of course impossible to predict. But if they are still hiking these mountains in 60 years, it will be but a second in geological time. If they keep hiking it will be because these mountains call to them, and in the process of hiking they are in touch within with something larger than themselves.

Jordan and Kate talk already of new hiking challenges and new lists – "100 highest" of New England, "Trailwrights 72," etc. As they talk about bringing their children one day to climb the 48, the generations begin to unfold in a poignant way. A little thought creeps in. How nice it would be as a tradition – one generation after another hiking as a family to be more than themselves.

1 comment:

Shaun McGowan said...

What an awesome hiking adventure - keep it up! Hope you get to reach them all!